Tag Archives: Prisons

10 correctional officers charged following death of Indigenous man in N.L. jail

Jonathan Henoche died about a year ago in Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, shown in St. John’s, N.L. in a 2020 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sarah Smellie

ST. JOHN’S, N.L — Ten correctional officers have been charged with crimes ranging from manslaughter to criminal negligence causing death in connection with the 2019 death of an Inuk man in a St. John’s jail.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary announced the charges in a Tuesday news release that didn’t include the officers’ identities, when they were arrested or under what conditions they were released.

RNC Const. James Cadigan said in an interview that the correctional officers’ identities will not be released until the charges are sworn in court, which he said must happen before Feb. 11, when the 10 officers are due before a judge.

Cadigan said the 10 correctional officers were released under conditions set by police and that they have not received a bail hearing.

The charges follow the death of Jonathan Henoche, a 33-year-old Inuk man from Labrador, who died at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary on Nov. 6, 2019, after an alleged altercation with correctional officers. He had been awaiting trial on charges including first-degree murder in relation to the 2016 death of an 88-year-old woman in Labrador.

Shortly after Henoche died, police announced his death was being investigated as a homicide.

Bob Buckingham, a St. John’s lawyer representing Henoche’s family, said Tuesday it is “abhorrent” the officers have been released under police-imposed conditions and that their names have not been made public.

“I have never seen a case where one individual has been charged with manslaughter and allowed to go home, let alone a cabal of 10 correctional officers charged with the care and custody of an individual be charged like this, and not be brought to court,” he said. “It is reprehensible.”

Tuesday’s news release by police said one correctional officer is charged with manslaughter and failure to provide necessities of life; two officers are charged with manslaughter; and the remaining seven officers are charged with criminal negligence causing death.

The accused range in age from 28 to 51. Two of the officers facing criminal negligence charges are women, both in their 30s.

Since 2019, Buckingham has been calling for a public inquiry into Henoche’s death. He said the way this case is being handled brings urgency to the need for a public inquiry.

Jonathan Henoche, 33, was killed inside Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s in November 2019 while awaiting trial for first-degree murder. (Facebook)

The correctional officers, Buckingham said, are being afforded protections and favouritism.

Buckingham said it’s “unbelievable” the 10 officers are home under undisclosed conditions.

When asked if it was customary for people facing manslaughter charges to be released on orders to appear in court at a later date, Cadigan said it is “all within the confines of the law, based on the charges.”

Robert Hoskins, a St. John’s lawyer who had represented Henoche with Buckingham, responded to the RNC news release on Twitter: “As an aboriginal myself, it’s hard not to look at this through the lens of systemic racism,” he wrote.

Hoskins said that by not releasing the officers’ names, police are “offering extra protections that are not usually offered.”

“How many aboriginal accused persons get to have their bail hearings deferred on manslaughter charges? Or get to have their names withheld from the media?”

A spokeswoman for the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, which represents corrections officers, said Tuesday it couldn’t comment on the case.

By: The Canadian Press, published Dec. 22, 2020.


Prison Watchdog Says More Than A Quarter Of federal Inmates Are Aboriginal People

Canada's prison watchdog says that for the first time, aboriginal people make up more than a quarter of inmates in federal jails. (CBC)

Canada’s prison watchdog says that for the first time, aboriginal people make up more than a quarter of inmates in federal jails. (CBC)

CBC News

Howard Sapers, Canada’s correctional investigator, says efforts to curb high numbers not working

For the first time, more than a quarter of inmates in Canadian prisons are aboriginal people.

“The most current figure we have is quite shocking,” said Correctional Investigator of Canada Howard Sapers, the country’s prison ombudsman.

“In federal corrections, 25.4 per cent of the incarcerated population are now of aboriginal ancestry.”


Howard Sapers, Canada’s prison watchdog, says he’s shocked by the growing number of aboriginal inmates. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Of 14,624 inmates across the country, 3,723 are aboriginal people. In the Prairie provinces, 48 per cent of federal inmates are aboriginal people.

For aboriginal women, the numbers are even higher. According to the most recent statistics, more than 36 per cent of women in prison are of aboriginal descent.

Sapers said that three decades ago, 10 per cent of federal inmates were aboriginal people, but the number continues to grow each year.

“It’s actually quite a dramatic increase,” Sapers said. “It was identified year after year after year as a major concern, as a human rights concern.”

Sapers said efforts to try to curb the high numbers don’t seem to be working, including a Supreme Court decision that encourages courts to take aboriginal history into account when sentencing individuals.

He points to poverty, the history of colonialism and lingering effects of the residential school system as reasons why so many aboriginal people suffer from alcoholism and other problems that land them in the justice system.

‘It doesn’t surprise me’

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me,” says Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, a group that advocates for the rights of women and girls in the justice system.

“In the next few years we could be looking at 40 to 50 per cent of the federal jail population being aboriginal women.”

Pate says years of cuts to social services, health care, and education has multiplied problems faced by indigenous people in Canada.

“The greater the inequality, the greater the likelihood that they’ll end up missing, dead, in the streets or in jail.”

Still, she’s optimistic that Canada’s new federal ministers of Public Safety, Justice and Indigenous Affairs will take a serious look at calls to action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which would see more funding for diversion and “realistic alternatives to imprisonment.”


Inmates Express Concerns At Prison Pow Wow



By Richie Richards | Native Sun News Staff Writer

SIOUX FALLS – The pow wow at the Jameson Annex in the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls returned to the gymnasium on Saturday, Oct. 17 after being banned by prison officials in recent years.

Scheduled Oct. 15-17, the Cultural Conference and Pow wow was a successful event this past weekend. There were several speakers and presenters including world-champion hoop dancer and Oglala Sioux Tribal Liaison, Dallas Chief Eagle.

On Thur. Oct. 15, the Cultural Conference began with discussions and information provided by Executive Director of Iron House Council (IHC), Jennifer Hudson.

The Iron House Council’s One Heart One Mind Interpretive Center is based near Charles Town, W.Va. IHC is a Native American advocacy and support group.

“Our vision is to see the next generations learn the history, culture and traditions of the Cannupa in order to walk the Red Road,” according to their website http://www.ohomic.org.

Iron House is working diligently in the East Coast region with dozens of correctional facilities and hundreds of prisoners providing documentary screenings, classes and lectures, community support for those struggling with addiction recovery, and incarcerated individuals who want Native American spiritual practices in their lives.

Jennifer Hudson of IHC told inmates, “You (S.D. inmates) are setting a precedent for others around the country who want what you have here in Sioux Falls. So many other prisons do not allow inipi ceremonies (sweat lodge), or sage or tobacco for prayer.”

“You are the leaders for so many others,” Hudson told the Native American inmates in the Jameson Annex at the S.D. State Prison.

Opening up the Cultural Conference on Friday was a water ceremony conducted by Lisa Bellinger who did prayer and spoke to prisoners about the connection “between women, water and life. Water is life.” Inmates drank from the blessed water Bellinger passed around the circle.

Native Sun News was invited to speak and updated inmates regarding the race relations issues in Rapid City, justice reform through the MacArthur Grant’s Safety and Justice Committee formed through the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and news from Indian Country.

The LDN Spiritual Group spokesman Robert Horse then introduced Dallas Chief Eagle who discussed with inmates the need to be led by the spiritual mind in life. “Let go of all the drama in here. All the drama from your family outside and be led by the spiritual mind. Tune into that channel to guide you,” said Chief Eagle.

On the day of the pow wow, inmates and visitors were able to have a pipe ceremony in morning. The Iron House staff and volunteers Kat Bartlett, Anna Goist, and Kevin McGee assisted with the ceremony and inmates were able to use tobacco during prayer.

Pow wow Eyapaha (announcer), George Blue Bird told the pow wow attendees how much he enjoyed it. “When I get out of here, I’m gonna move to Georgia, somewhere, and work on a tobacco farm so I can smoke all day, every day.” Everyone laughed when he made the gesture of being surrounded by tobacco leaves.

During the pow wow, Dallas Chief Eagle put on a hoop dancing performance which amazed everyone in the gymnasium. Chief Eagle is a tribal liaison for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

He encouraged inmates and outside guests to participate and create the various animal spirits with hoops. Inmates could be seen smiling and laughing as they were floating around the gym floor like eagles. This symbol of freedom was touching as one visitor could be seen crying from joy.

Chief Eagle’s performance ended with him sitting in a sweat lodge made from his sacred hoops.

Source: navajotimes.com

Native American Inmates Lose Fight For Long Hair In Prison


Associated Press

An appeals court has ruled against Native American inmates in Alabama fighting for the right to wear long hair in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court this week upheld an Alabama prison policy requiring male inmates to keep their hair cut short. The federal judges ruled that the Alabama Department of Corrections had security and hygiene reasons for the policy. Judges said the court could not force Alabama to accept inmates with long hair even though prisons across the country had done so safely.

Inmates had told the court that their long hair has deep religious significance, and they wanted to keep their hair unshorn because of their beliefs.

“Their sacred and ancestral core religious traditions are at stake,” said the inmates’ attorney, Mark Sabel of Montgomery.

The prison department did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on the decision. The department had argued that long hair was a hygiene risk and could be used to conceal weapons and contraband.

The long-running lawsuit was first filed in the 1990s and has been before the 11th Circuit three times.

The U. S. Supreme Court in February kicked the case back for review after ruling the previous month that Arkansas had violated the religious rights of Muslim inmates by forbidding them to grow beards.

Sabel said he thought the 11th Circuit decision was in conflict with the Arkansas case.

Most states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons allow long hair or a religious exemption on grooming policies, said Joel West Williams, staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund.

“The evidence is that 39 jurisdictions allow long hair and do so safely,” Williams said.

The appeals court said many well-run prisons see the benefit of allowing inmates to follow the grooming practices of their religion but that Alabama had to decide for itself if it was worth the risks.

The department of corrections “may, of course, decide in the future that these costs and risks might be worth absorbing, especially in view of the high value that long hair holds for many religious inmates,” the judges wrote.

Sabel said he is considering his next step, which could include asking for a hearing by all 11th Circuit judges or another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

By Kim Chandler, The Associated Press, Posted: Aug 6, 2015